Association between loneliness and acceptance of using robots and pets as companions among older Chinese immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ching Ju Chiu, Yi Hsuan Lo, Mu Hsing Ho, Jed Montayre, Ivy Yan Zhao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: To examine loneliness experienced by middle-aged and older Chinese immigrants and its association with accepting technology as a companion (apps, Internet and robots) versus owning pets, when social distancing measures were implemented in New Zealand during the first COVID-19 outbreak. Methods: This study conducted a community-based cross-sectional survey. Chinese immigrants who were 45–87 years old (n = 173) were invited to answer an online survey in the Chinese language, collecting demographic data, responses to the 6-item De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale and experiences in using technology and pet ownership. Descriptive analyses and inferential statistics tests were utilised in the data analysis. Results: A moderate level of overall loneliness with a mean score of 3.68 (SD 1.84), ranging from 0 to 6, was reported by participants. Emotional and social loneliness ranged from 0 to 3 with mean scores of 1.69 (SD 0.98) and 1.99 (SD 1.24), respectively. Self-reported health, financial status, English language abilities, transportation and experiences of using the Internet and apps were significantly related to experiencing loneliness. Loneliness had a weak association with acceptance of robots and pets, but 67.8% and 58.3% of participants who felt lonely, accepted companionship of robots and pets, respectively. Conclusions: The level of loneliness among older and middle-aged immigrants increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further evidence of the specific dimensions of loneliness and the utility of technology to alleviate loneliness among immigrant groups is needed. Interventions tailored for older people with specific cultural requirements to address loneliness are needed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralasian Journal on Ageing
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • apps
  • companion
  • computational intelligence
  • culturally diverse
  • lonely
  • pet
  • robot
  • social isolation
  • the internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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